Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for
‘The History, Victory, and Mystery of the Cross’
© April 14, 2017, by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer
Opening Hymn #252: O Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled?; Choruses
Communion: Toronto Vineyard
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Responsive Reading #612: The Lamb of God (Isaiah 55)
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The History, Victory, and Mystery of the Cross’
Let us pray…
This morning, we welcome you to the Good Friday Service hosted by both the Toronto Vineyard and Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Today we remember Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, an act of propitiation to Father in Heaven, bringing to those who believe in reconciliation and sanctification under a New Covenant with God.
Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we learned that through Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the back of a colt, a young donkey, just before their meal our Lord humbled himself to wash the disciples in order to teach them how they must approach ministering his Gospel. We see that the actions of the Lord were not only important at that moment in time but they were intended to prepare them for the future.
The actions of Christ were often intended to teach at more than one level, so it is the death of the cross, which we will look at in today’s lesson, entitled: ‘The History, Victory, and Mystery of the Cross.’
Most Christian Churches observe Good Friday with a Service that focuses upon the pain and suffering our Lord experienced as he was betrayed, flogged, and crucified, with communion tacked on to the end of the service, almost like an afterthought.
We see an outline of the traditional Good Friday Service displayed within the graphic entitled: ‘This is what Christ Jesus said when he was crucified,’ which gives a chronology of what the Lord spoke after being nailed upon the cross up to the point of his death.
The seven phrases Jesus spoke begin with three that show the Lord asking forgiveness for the wrongdoing of others, promising resurrection to a condemned criminal crucified beside him who confessed both his sin and faith in the Lord and seeking the care of Mary by entrusting her to the disciple John. The next three phrases indicate the personal suffering Christ experienced as he suffered for our sins, expressing his feeling of solitude, his thirst, and his impending death. The final phrase is the faith and trust Jesus maintained until the moment of his passing.
I would like to break with the tradition of focusing on the minute historic details of horrific elements suffered by Jesus. You may find shown to be extreme in viewing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Cross. This movie focuses more on history rather than the victory of the cross.
I believe that by taking the elements of Communion, as we had at the beginning of today’s service, we have followed Jesus’ instructions to remember his broken body, shed blood, and death, which serves as a final sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
But there is more in communion and life than what we see on the surface.
Many of us will go out to eat a meal in a restaurant sometime this weekend. It is funny how we will be seated, order from a menu, have a meal, with little or no thought to the service involved in preparing, serving, and after-meal clean up, until we go to leave a tip after we have paid for a meal. If any aspect of the meal service is poor, some people choose to reduce or not pay any tip. This is too bad, for all the staff is being punished for the failings of one person at perhaps one stage of the dinner service, where the rest of the people had successfully completed their responsibilities towards the dinner service.
The fact that the tip I usually left at the end of the service should not minimize its importance to the success of the meal. The guests, having finished a satisfying meal, hurry to put on their coats to be off to their next destination they pay the bill and leave a token tip, frequently consisting of the loose change in their pockets. In their rush to leave it is easy to overlook that any tip maybe not proportional to the service provided. A minimum tip may have to be split by a host or hostess and the server. Others involved in the meal such as the chief, busboy, or girl, and the bartender may get no tip for services rendered. We often forget or worse, never appreciate, the steps involved by others taken in order to serve a meal.
Human nature being the way it is, we Christians can easily forget all the sacrifices and the steps involved and the repercussions of the actions of our Lord in order to bring us salvation for our sins.
Good Friday is the one day on the Church Calendar where Christians focus on the Lord’s sacrifice but may rush past the reasons why Jesus died on that cross.
Part of the blame could fall on us pastors, who practice the institution of tacking communion at the end of the Order of Service. Like the tip at the end of the meal, communion may consist of a brief prayer, serving the elements, and after a short benediction, we are dismissed and on our way.
The death of Jesus on the cross, in addition to being a propitiation to God for the judgment of the sins of everyone for all time, the Gospel or Good News included many other elements that we can easily overlook or take for granted when we take communion.
By the power of the Spirit, Jesus rose from the grave. We should also remember that Jesus ascended to heaven in order to be our advocate to the Father in heaven. And last but not least, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to believers, first recorded on the Day of Pentecost. These often forgotten aspects of Christ’s sacrifice should be acknowledged as important elements of the Gospel Story when we partake in Communion.
It is the unseen works of the Spirit that are true expressions of the sacrifice our Lord made when he willingly surrendered to the judgment of the cross. This brings us to the first of today’s Scripture passages, from Acts 3:1-26 (ESV):
The Lame Beggar Healed
3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God,10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
We should not be like the crowd who marveled with wonder at the mystery of the miracles of the Lord. We do not receive the benefit of salvation through Christ if we do not decide to turn from a life of wickedness.
The other important lesson we should take from communion is that Good Friday Communion is no more important than the other times throughout the year we receive communion. Salvation comes from a single sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and it continues for all time for all generations of believers. For that reason, our remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice must be continuous. This requires faith on our part. Along with salvation, comes the promise of the resurrection, which is part of God’s new covenant. The first example of the promise of this promise is recorded in Luke 23: 32-33, 39-43 (ESV):
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Footnotes: a. Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him
No matter where we are in our walk in life, it is faith in Christ that leads us to the undeserved gift of salvation with the promise of eternal life, and it is the Holy Spirit, given as a reward to faith, helps us understand the mystery of why he died for you and me.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me
Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Remember: Know Jesus, Know Peace – No Jesus, No Peace!